Cup will not go ahead but spirit set to live on
The Marlborough Cup,
the UK's only timber race, is to be discontinued in its current format
and to be replaced by other exciting developments planned for the future.
The seventh running of the race, along with its support events - The Silver
Fox and Countryside Fair - had been set to take place on Sunday 26 May
2002. The organisers' decision has been made following an acknowledgement,
after much thought and analysis that timber racing in the UK has only
developed a 'niche' appeal.
However, founder of the event and owner of The Marlborough Cup course
at Barbury, Count Konrad Goess-Saurau, has announced outline plans, which
will build positively on the foundations of the past seven years, adapt
to a constantly changing sport and, at the same time, keep the spirit
of The Marlborough Cup alive. The Marlborough Cup team will now work on
a plan to develop an end-of-season Marlborough Festival of countryside
racing at the Fullers Barbury Castle point-to-point course in years to
come. This is likely to incorporate a relaunched Silver Fox Hunt Team
Challenge which has become a successful support event since the first
running of The Marlborough Cup, attracting teams from over 30 hunts across
the UK and Europe.
The in-house organisational team, based at Temple Farm, Rockley, including
Marlborough Cup Racing Director, Scarlett Crew will organise and continue
to promote new initiatives.
Explains Count Goess-Saurau:
"We have employed every method possible to both minimise the risk
of injury and encourage trainers to enter top quality horses; and these
were beginning to make an impact by 1999. However, looking at the racing
world, as it is today, I cannot see it being anything more than an uphill
struggle to establish enough horses of the calibre we need to grow the
sport safely over here. In addition, there is no doubt that last year's
cancellation, due to the FMD outbreak, broke the momentum of our campaign.
"I am obviously disappointed that we have been unable to sustain
my ultimate vision and I am sad for my team here who have put a lot of
work and dedication into developing the event and support for the sport
in the UK. Having said that, I have gained immense enjoyment working on
the project and providing connections of past runners with a unique sporting
"I still think there is a future for professional timber racing and
firmly believe that it will work better as part of our new plans for a
timber-style cross country race which may also include other types of
cross country fences, as is increasingly becoming the trend in America."
Count Konrad Goess-Saurau cited the following factors as contributing
to the recent Marlborough Cup decision:
The increasing number of alternative options for trainers to run their
good jump horses in the UK and overseas including: Cheltenham's cross
country races, overseas cross country races like the Pardubice and new
international races like The Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan. In addition,
today there is now a wider choice of top hunter chase events across the
UK. And, of course, other events have had to think more about safety,
including The Grand National, where the fences have become less punishing
following adjustments made to the fences over the last few years.
The number of standard National Hunt fixtures and Summer jump racing has
meant that trainers are often too busy preparing for standard races, to
focus on the different type of training required for a timber racehorse.
The difficulty of filling the 'tradition' gap in this country, compared
to America, where they have been timber racing in Maryland and Virginia
for over 100 years, so have more experience in training and competing
horses over timber
The higher cost of running such an event under Jockey Club rules
Continues Count Goess-Saurau: "We have listened to those who have
expressed a desire to see more races in the one day and have already embarked
on the first steps to redesign the Fullers Barbury Castle racecourse by
adding some diagonal loops which criss-cross the point-to-point track.
Sadly we will have to wait an estimated 2/3 years to allow the new turf
to become established, before we will be in a position to host such a
Festival. However, I hope it will be as warmly accepted as The Marlborough
Cup has been in recent years and am genuinely excited by the prospect
of these new developments," ends Count Goess-Saurau.
Added Gurney Sheppard, Jockey Club Steward and Chairman of The Jockey
Club Timber Racing Committee: "Konrad has put a huge amount of enthusiasm,
effort and money into The Marlborough Cup and we will be sad to lose this
exciting and professionally run fixture. However, we entirely understand
his sentiments and wishes and we hope to continue working with The Marlborough
Cup team on a new Festival for the future."